Anna Fels

About Anna Fels Anna Fels

Anna Fels is a psychiatrist, works and lives with her two children and her husband in New York City. Author of "Necessary dreams, ambition in women's changing lives" ("Vrouwen en Ambitie" uitgeverij Reunion).
She has a particular interest in women in the workplace at corporations.

Why Anna inspires me

Anna's book made me realize that there still are many issues in the changing lives of women that challenges them to pursue their ambitions on a daily basis. As Anna put it: "The societal norm is seen an felt as natural. That was so in earlier days as well."

Anna Fels examined literature thoroughly, held interviews with women. She built her own frame of reference to get answers to questions like why women have mixed succes in following their ambitions throughout their lives.

She convincingly tells the fact that women do have ambitions! They have in fact multiple ambitions. They try to combine them in playing all these different roles.

Anna's book shows us that women need more recognition for their work and skills. Ambition becomes stronger in a stimulating environment.

Anna's book sums op the facts that women that combine work and family are healthier then women who don't work.

She shows us that in the workenvironment women have to behave more 'male-like' and in the home/family environment they have to be more feminine. That combination of the two opposite sexrole patterns (The Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hide effect) can be -at the least- ambiguous and leads to stress.

Monday the 3rd of October 2011,
The Lof work+life inspiration congres at Cap Gemini, Utrecht.

Many thanks to Jolanda Holwerda ( and Marieke Hoogwout (

"Hello Anna, it is very special for me to meet you like this! I am very happy that I you take the time to answer some of my questions."

"Well it is nice for me to be here too."

"Can you tell us something about yourself ? What kind of work do you do, Eleonora?"

"I train professional women how to become more energetic and succesful in their worklife."

"That is interesting, how do you do that ?"

"I train them in small groups and work with the "Vitality Circle". In this circle there are four elements to make someone more healthy and energetic. I also tell them about stress and how that works in the woman body."

"What do you tell women about stress ?"

"I tell them that stress has different effects on men and women, for example women are more sensitive to social stressors. Stressors for example like a conflict with co-workers or family/friends give women significantly more stress than men. Women also respond differently to that kind of stress. Due to a certain chemical that is released, called oxytocine, women react with bonding more with other people. They call that the "tend-and-befriend" reaction to stress.
Men suffer more from competitive stress: they react stressfull to situations in which they experience competition. They behave in a more risktaking way then women in the same situation.
That is just one thing I make women aware of. I believe that if women know more about how stress works they can be more alert to it."

"How did you start this topic Eleonora? "

"A few years ago I was at home, feeling exhausted. I realized after a period of time that although I worked hard, I did not feel the recognition I needed to go on. Eventually I took another turn in my work and started to work with this topic"

"What did you do to become fit again?"

"I started to take up running. I ran three times a week. That made me conscious what my body needed. That was a good experience for me to become energetic again"

"Anna, how do you keep fit?"

"With difficulty! I work with a trainer twice a week"

"How do you take special care of yourself when travelling?"

"I do not, but what suggestions do you have?"

"You could take a nap between meetings, or you could take a massage, or if you love chocolate you could buy yourself some delicious ones... It all depends on what helps you to relax and to be more 'in tune' with what you need"

"What are energizers for you ?"

"To sleep, to be with friends and to be outside"

"What things cost you energy, or drains you ?"

"If I work too many hours. If I have to think and behave in a strategical way for the benefit of my career."

"In which of the four elements of my "Vitality Circle" (emotional aspect, social aspect, fysical aspect, spiritual aspect) do women in your opinion have to take more care of themselves?"

"I think they need to be more assertive (social aspect), they need to be more themselves (emotional aspect) because it is exhausting to behave as if you are someone else. And in the fysical aspect."

"Women in the Netherlands are the champions worldwide to work part-time. Does that make them more at risk in your opinion to all sorts of illnesses?"

"No, I think they are quite happy"

"In your book you tell us about how ambitions work in womens changing lives. What was your ambition as a girl?"

"I wanted to be an archeologist"

"Do you have any advice for professional women in the Netherlands ?"

"They have to take time for fysical relaxation in the workplace.

Do you have an advice for my work (to help women become more energetic and healthy in their worklife)

"I don't know you enough to give you personal advice but, I do know that we need more women like you in the States, Eleonora, You can help women take more care of themselves because women in the United States are exhausting themselves, they wear themselves down."

"That is an interesting point of view, Anna, when I am in New York, I will visit you. Thank you very much for this interview!"

"You're welcome, Eleonora!"

Round Table meetings

Anna's book inspired me to set up Round Table meetings with Dutch professional women to investigate her conclusions for myself.
I asked 27 women to discuss with me their worklife and the pitfalls they had encountered. I had 5 sessions with 5 women in a group and we took about three hours to talk about the following three topics:

  1. Femininity at work/women in the workplace;
  2. Ambition and Vitality;
  3. Vitality and health as a mother and wife.

Vitality Network for Professional Women
In January 2010 I started the "Vitality network for professional women" as a place where women can be 'fed' socially, and can give eachother recognition.

Andere vitaliteitsinterviews